Matt Hancock texts: Jacob Rees-Mogg says COVID lockdown impact on economy was 'calamitous'

British Minister for Brexit Opportunities and Government Efficiency Jacob Rees-Mogg walks in London, Britain, July 18, 2022. REUTERS/John Sibley
Jacob Rees-Mogg labelled the effect of lockdown on the economy as 'calamitous' as he discussed Matt Hancock's WhatsApp messages being leaked. (Getty)

Jacob Rees-Mogg has said that the impact of lockdown on the economy was "calamitous" and that "we must never do this again".

The GB News presenter appeared on air with fellow presenter Andrew Pierce, sharing his thoughts on lockdown policy in the wake of thousands of Matt Hancock's WhatsApp messages from the time being leaked to the press.

"The impact [of lockdown] was, apart from all the issues around mental health and civil liberties, a calamitous impact on the economy," said Pierce. To which Rees-Mogg replied: "It was. I agree. We must never do this again."

The former Cabinet minister, who was Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons from July 2019 to February 2022, told Pierce that "the enthusiasm for locking people up was not shared by the Cabinet".

Britain's Health Secretary Matt Hancock gestures during a tour of Chelsea and Westminster hospital in London, Britain June 17, 2021. Steve Reigate/Pool via REUTERS
Thousands of Matt Hancock's WhatsApps were leaked to the press by the ghostwriter of his pandemic memoirs (Reuters)

He went on to say that the "quad" of Boris Johnson, Matt Hancock, Rishi Sunak and Dominic Raab were responsible for bringing in COVID laws that were not supported by him and other Cabinet members.

The emergence of Hancock's WhatsApp messages have dominated headlines over the past week, raising questions over ministers' claims that they "followed the science" throughout the pandemic.

At the weekend, messages were published in which Hancock told aides he wanted to “frighten the pants off everyone” to ensure compliance with COVID-19 restrictions

The messages revealed that Rees-Mogg had a COVID test couriered for one of his children while there was a shortage in September 2020.

And aide messaged Hancock to say the lab had "lost" the original test for one of the then Commons leader's children, "so we've got a courier going to their family home tonight".

Watch: Top civil servant warned Boris Johnson was 'distrusted figure' during COVID pandemic, leaked Hancock WhatsApp messages show

He added: "Jacob's spad [special adviser] is aware and has helped line it all up, but you might want to text Jacob."

Liberal Democrat deputy leader Daisy Cooper said in reaction to the claim: "This is yet more evidence that it's one rule for Conservative ministers and another for everyone else.

"The COVID inquiry must look into reports Conservative ministers were able to get priority access to tests at a time of national shortage."

However, last week on GB News Rees-Mogg confirmed his child's test had been lost, meaning he had to quarantine and said he was "unable to do my job as a government minister for several days, until it was admitted that this had been lost".

However, he insisted he did not ask for another test, adding: "At that point it was raised with the Department of Health, and they decided to send a test to a member of my family so the test could be carried out.

"Not something I asked for, so if I received any special treatment, it wasn't because I had requested it, but actually it allowed a government minister to get back to work with a child that didn't have COVID in the first place, who wouldn't have needed a special test had the system actually been working, but I accept it wasn't working for other people too."